Decluttering with Michelangelo

Here it is Friday again. Another week has whizzed by and I find myself looking back to see what, if anything, significant was accomplished or learned. This week I have something to share that I hope will help someone else.

I’m engaged in an ongoing battle with clutter. The combination of lots of people in a not-overly-large house requires certain decisions about what goes and what stays and how to store it all. I was in the process of lightening my load when my mother passed away last year and much of her abundance was added to mine. It’s been overwhelming. As a result, I’ve ended up with a couple of rooms, so stacked with boxes and bags they are nearly unusable.

Now there are many methods out there to process stuff like this. Some examples are the ever-popular four box method, the “box-up-everything-to-clear-the-space-and-go-through-the-boxes” method, and the hard-core minimalist approach where you basically get rid of anything you’re not currently using. These methods haven’t helped me. There are too many decisions to make, and I don’t see myself every being a minimalist. But this week I stumbled onto something that did and was a perfect fit for my visually-oriented, right-brained self.

Earlier this week, I saw a quote I’ve seen many times before and always liked:

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

But then I saw this quote:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Something stirred inside me and I caught a vision. My problem when I start to work on one of the stacked up rooms, is I focus on the stacks and get overwhelmed. Michelangelo didn’t focus on the enormity of the block of marble before him. He focused on the object he was going to create out of it. I suddenly began to look at my house with fresh eyes.

What if I went to each room, determined the purposes it needed to serve, determined what things were needed for that purpose and what things would make it a thing of beauty, and ditched everything else? What if I started with the end in mind? What if I caught a vision for what the room could be rather than its current state? Hmm. I was off and running.

So, I set to work. My bedroom is frequently the dumping ground for anything that doesn’t have a place it goes. So I end up with the weirdest assortment of stuff in there, plus the room is more multipurpose than I would like. In addition to the usual stuff that goes with bedrooms, my husband’s desk and computer and related stuff are in there because there’s no other place to put it. So we need his desk and chair, plus the bedroom furniture. I’m always going to have a certain amount of books and magazines in there, so I need a shelf for those. Needed stuff would include the books, the computer, the bedding and clothes, accessories and personal items. Some pretty items finish the list.

When I started to clean out the room, I threw away obvious trash and put some items I knew I didn’t want into a bag for charity, but for most things, I didn’t want to go through an extensive decision-making process. All I had to decide was whether or not it fit in the stated vision for that room. If not, I didn’t worry about whether I should be keeping it or not, I just added it to the pile going out of the room. This may take a bit longer overall, but the decision-making process is so much easier for me.

A little hint. If you start writing down the room’s purpose and what furniture and stuff are needed, be sure to leave a couple of extra lines after each section, because your vision may evolve as you go along. For instance, you may get all your living areas planned, but when you start to go through them, you realize you didn’t designate an area for board games and your family loves board games. Do you play them at the dining table or in the living room? Wherever it is, add it to your purpose for that room and add board games to the list of the stuff of that room.

What if you get to the end and have stuff left over that has no designated place? Look carefully at that stuff and ask yourself if it can be fit into the vision of any of your rooms. Can it be part of the work of art you are creating or does it need to be chipped away?

You might make some discoveries along the way. I can’t count the number of times, while I was doing my bedroom, that I found myself saying “I just need to get a container for these and they could go in ___________” I found many things that had been put in my room, not because they really needed to go there or because they fulfilled the room’s vision and purpose, but so someone would know where they are. Several of those things are now in containers on a shelf somewhere else, but are easy to locate and use without cluttering up my room.

Anyway, it’s a different way to go about it, but it seems to really be working for me. I’ve already made progress on several areas that I was having trouble making any headway on. I’m also rethinking and re-purposing rooms as I go along. I never thought Michelangelo would be an inspiration for de-cluttering (and I’m pretty sure he didn’t either), but one never knows where inspiration may come from. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I hope everyone has had a good, productive week. Enjoy the weekend and plan on a spectacular week to come.

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